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Knowledge-Sharing Kit

Guide to key concepts in governance and development

Canada Corps supports Canada and Canadians in promoting good
governance in developing countries and countries undergoing transition. This
document will explain key governance concepts, and will illustrate what
governance looks like ‘on the ground’. The objective is to prepare Canada
Corps participants to write a case study about their overseas
assignments/projects and include insights on how their work relates to the
broader promotion of governance in development.

What is governance?
Governance is about the way that decisions are made in towns, cities,
provinces, and countries. For those in government, it is the exercise of
authority to manage the affairs of a constituency. While the government
normally has the final say when it comes to public policies, programs, laws,
and regulations, it is not the only player. Citizens, civil society organizations,
and the private sector also have a role to play. Governance is about how
government, civil society, and the private sector work together. It tells us:
• HOW the government functions
• WHO is involved in the policy process, and
• WHERE the effects, both positive and negative, of political activity, are
distributed in a society

How the guide is organized

This guide is divided into six parts:

a) Key elements related to governance

b) Why is governance a development issue?
c) Governance and CIDA’s goals
d) Governance and Canada Corps
e) Governance ‘on the ground’
f) For more information

A) Key elements related to governance

Below is a list of terms often used when talking about governance. Each is an
element that can act as a lens through which one can look at governance.
The relative presence or absence, strength or weakness of an element, can
help us assess whether governance is “good” (i.e. strong) or weak, and how
to channel aid through governance programming to reach the goals of

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poverty reduction and sustainable development. Much is written and debated

about each of these terms. The explanations below are not meant to be
definitive but rather to give an introductory understanding to the elements
and how they relate to the broader concept of governance. A reflection on
how the terms link to each other follows in the next section.

The terms "government" and "governance" are sometimes confused.
Governance is about government, but it has a broader meaning. It is
normally the role of government to have the final word on how best to serve
the broad interests of the community — sometimes referred to as the public
interest. The government provides goods and services (such as public health,
law and order, social assistance, public highways, and garbage collection, to
name a few) that will never be fully provided by the private sector. It also
creates and enforces laws and regulations, collects taxes and spends public
money, operates public programs, and educates the public about important

Civil society
Civil society can be described as the realm of citizen activities independent of
the state and the beyond the household1. It is made up of organized groups
or associations formed voluntarily by members of society to protect or extend
their interests, values and/or identities. Civil society organizations (CSOs)
can be diverse, ranging from parent-teacher organizations, to neighbourhood
associations, to well-known non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as
Amnesty International, or Greenpeace. According to UNDP, CSOs can play a
critical role in developing the social and political capacities of the poor,
increasing their effectiveness in influencing governance institutions and
making the latter more responsive to their needs. Supporting civil society can
include measures that promote access to information, freedom of expression,
developing pro-poor associations, as well as examining barriers against
political inclusion of the poor2.

A key aspect of good governance is enabling ordinary citizens to participate
in and influence decision-making processes, especially at local level. In the
1990s, discourse on participation originally focused on community or social
participation of “beneficiaries” in development projects. In 1995, the World
Bank Learning Group on Participation defined participation as a “process
through which stakeholders influence and share control over development
initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them.”3 Since then,

For a more detailed discussion, see Gordon White, “Civil Society, Democratization and Development (I):
Clearing the Analytical Ground”, Democratization (Autumn, 1994) pp. 375-390.
For more information see
World Bank (1995), World Bank Participation Sourcebook, Environment Department Papers Participation
Series Washington D.C. World Bank.

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there has been an increasing emphasis on engaging people as citizens in

activities that traditionally formed part of the state sphere. It is argued that
such increased political participation will improve the efficiency of public
services, will make local government more accountable, and will deepen
democracy — complementing representative forms with more participatory
forms of democracy4.

Rule of law
The rule of law refers to the effective functioning of institutions such as a
formally independent and impartial judiciary, legislatures, police,
prosecutors, and other formal institutions with some direct connection to law.
It is a system in which laws are public, where no laws apply only to particular
individuals, classes, or groupings, and includes provisions for judicial review
of government action. The rule of law is also something that resides in the
consciousness of the citizens of a society – how they understand, use, and
value the law. In the context of good governance, rule of law must enable
freedom of association and speech as well as citizen capacities to participate
constructively in their society. Rule of law should ensure predictability,
meaning fair and consistent application of laws and government policies5.

When the exercise of government decision-making is accountable, it adds
strength and legitimacy to state-society interactions. A classic form of
accountability is the vote, allowing citizens to periodically hold governments
to account for their rule. Fiscal accountability is ensured through effective
functioning of offices and roles of the controller and auditor-general. Other
modes of political accountability include the legislature, an effective
opposition, sufficient staff resources and oversight committees. Between
elections, accountability mechanisms include the operation of a free and
independent media, and civil society initiatives.

Decision-making processes, however well-intentioned, must be open to
public scrutiny or transparent. This is an essential ingredient in preventing
corruption. The lack of transparency in official governmental transactions is
considered one of the biggest barriers to development today. Transparency
requires that the system for designing rules and regulations be open, that
the regulations be simple and clear, and that financial, supervisory and
enforcement institutions have strong disclosure requirements. Transparency
measures include codes of conduct, conflicts of interests regulations,
effective accounting standards, procurement rules, civil society participation,
government facilitating access to information, and an independent media.

For more information visit,
For more on this see, Carothers, T. 2003, 'Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: The Problem of Knowledge',
Rule of Law Series no. 34, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington.

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The equity dimension of governance seeks to ensure that development is
inclusive, that all people benefit from well-functioning political and economic
institutions and political, economic and social processes. Equity is often used
in the context of giving traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women,
disabled persons, ethnic minorities, and indigenous peoples, equal access
and control over resources and opportunities. Measures are often used to
compensate for historical and social disadvantages towards creating a level
playing field. Equity leads to equality.

Governance also implies that institutions and processes have to demonstrate
their responsiveness to the hopes and aspirations of the people at large, not
just certain social groups or elites. Responsiveness includes the extent to
which public service agencies demonstrate receptivity to the views,
complaints and suggestions of citizens and service users, by changing their
own structure, culture and service delivery patterns. Allowing citizens to
obtain redress for their grievances and advocate for change in policies and
processes increases participation and promotes transparency.

B) Why is governance a
development issue?
Good Governance and Sustainable
Development at the United Nations Development are Indivisible
means, “the process of enlarging
peoples’ choices to live long and healthy
lives, to have access to knowledge, and
to have access to income and assets: to “That is the lesson of all our effort and
enjoy a decent standard of living”6. experiences, from Africa to Asia to Latin
Reflecting on the elements of America. Without good governance -
without the rule of law, predictable
governance in a country can tell us a
administration, legitimate power and
great deal about the people’s options, responsive regulation - no amount of
their access to knowledge and funding, no amount of charity will set us
opportunities. Each of the elements, on the path to prosperity . . .
and good governance itself, can be
Good governance will give every citizen,
understood to be both a means and a young or old, man or woman, a real and
goal of development. Assessing lasting stake in the future of his or her
governance and its elements will lend societies – politically, economically and
insight into how development efforts socially. With that stake in their mind
and hearts, there are no limits to what
are succeeding (or not succeeding) in
peoples of your countries can achieve.”
securing choices for the people the
government represents. - Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the
United Nations, Inaugural Address,
As shown in the following diagram, the Report of the International
Conference on Governance for
elements can be linked to each other, Sustainable Growth and Equity, UN,
New York, 28-30 July, 1997, pp. 124-5.
Originally defined in the Global UNDP Human Development Report, 1990,

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and to the broad concept of governance and development.

P a rtic ip a tio n

R u le o f L a w E q u ity

G o ve rn a n ce

T ra n sp a re n cy A c c o u n t a b ilit y

R e s p o n s iv e n e s s

If an overarching goal of development is to widen people’s choices over their

lives, a key aspect to this is enabling participation. The opportunity to
participate must be unhindered by impediments imposed by the state. This
brings forth the rule of law as a development issue. The rule of law must
enable freedom of association and speech, and enable the capacity to
participate constructively. Rule of law should also ensure predictable, fair and
consistent application of these laws and government policies. Predictability is
supported by transparency. Decision-making processes, however well-
intentioned, must be open to public scrutiny. Further to being transparent,
institutions and processes must demonstrate that they are responsive to
the hopes and aspirations of the people at large, allowing citizens to obtain
redress for their grievances and advocate for change in policies and
processes. Governance is also about eliminating favouritism toward special
interest groups and treating everyone equitably. The equity dimension seeks
to ensure that development is inclusive, that all people benefit from well-
functioning political and economic institutions and political, economic and
social processes. Finally, when the exercise of government decision-making
is accountable, it adds legitimacy to state-society interactions. Without
accountability, the social contract between citizens and representative
government is broken.

C) Governance and Canada’s International Development Goals

Governance reform is at the forefront of Canada’s development policy, with
the following five-pronged approach as outlined in the 2005 International
Policy Statement chapter on Development (page 13):
• Democratization with an emphasis on electoral democracy and enhanced
engagement of civil society in the political process;
• Human rights with an emphasis on the rights of women and children
affected by conflicts, gender-based violence and natural disasters;

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• Rule of law focusing on stronger judiciary, bar and legal aid systems;
• Public sector institution and capacity building with an emphasis on
reducing corruption, increasing
accountability, responsiveness and Improving governance is one of the
managerial capacities; and essential cornerstones of development
progress, and thus of good
• Conflict prevention, peacebuilding development cooperation… basic
and security-sector reform focusing education and health are not only
on integration of conflict indicators and crucial goals in their own right, but
early warning systems, demobilization they are also vital pre-conditions for
effective participation in governance,
of former combatants and small arms
and the economy, especially by the
collection, truth and reconciliation disadvantaged.
commissions; and transparency in
policing and security agencies. - A Role of Pride and Influence in
the World: Development, Canada’s
International Policy Statement,
D) Governance and Canada Corps 2005

Canada Corps facilitates Canadians

working together to promote good governance and institution-building in
developing countries and fragile states. Canada Corps is mobilizing
Canadians to promote good governance at two levels:
• Governance as statehood: elections, parliaments, legal and judicial
development, public sector management, human rights.
• Governance at the regional and local level: public sector
management, health, education, social development, participatory
democratic practices, civil society capacity building.

E) Governance ‘on the ground ‘

Governance is a multifaceted concept, and there are many faces of it in

action. It is also a priority area for many international donors, multilateral
agencies, and international financial institutions (IFIs). Here are some
examples of governance programming by Canada Corps, other branches at
CIDA, and multilateral donors:

Democratization: Elections in post-Communist states

In post-Communist states, holding elections is viewed as important evidence
of movement towards improved governance. Much focus has centred on how
elections have been organized. Have the voters been able to exercise their
right to vote freely and fairly? Have the votes been counted fairly? In
December 2005, 463 Canadian volunteers served as election observers in
Ukraine under the Canada Corps banner. The Canadian volunteers were
stationed in teams of about 20 persons each at polls throughout the Ukraine.
They worked in cooperation with delegates from other bodies of international
observers, most notably the Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe. In all, it has been reported that more than 12,000 international
observers went to Ukraine as part of a coordinated effort that led to broad

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coverage of polling locations with minimal duplication and overlap. The

election result was clear, said the leader of the Canadian observer mission,
Rt. Hon. John N. Turner: “I can say without reservation that the people won
this election, because our report finds that it was conducted in a fair, open
and democratic way.7”

Rule of law: Legal awareness in Vietnam

Just a couple of years ago, few ethnic minority groups living in the plains and
midlands of northern Vietnam knew they had rights. They had no consistent
or binding method of settling land disputes. Local village chiefs were often
compelled to carry out administrative functions, such as recruiting for the
army or collecting taxes that were not their responsibility. And gaps in
knowledge about family law put women at a disadvantage. CIDA's Southeast
Asia Fund for Institutional and Legal Development (SEAFILD) began a project
called the Legal Awareness for People in Villages, Communes and Provincial
Districts. SEAFILD partnered with the Hanoi-based Centre for Legal Research
and Services (LERES), which runs legal clinics and provides legal aid for the
poor. LERES had recently branched out to the underserved rural populations
in the north. The project worked through LERES to train village chiefs, run
seminars for men and women including government officials and community
residents, and produce four plain-language manuals in local dialects that
explained everyday rights and responsibilities. Some were designed
specifically for urban residents, while others covered interests to rural
communities. These manuals were an instant hit when they were distributed
to local government offices, and to women's and farmers' associations — and
the demand kept growing. Today, they are available in all 61 provinces of

Human Rights: Women and communications in northern Ghana

Accessing the information that leads to knowledge has long been a struggle
in the poor arid regions of northern Ghana — especially for women. A CIDA
project working with Ghana's Ministry of Local Government and Rural
Development, is helping local governments in northern regions work more
effectively with rural communities to manage water and sanitation resources.
This five-year initiative, known as the District Capacity Building Project
(DISCAP), has provided regional and local governments with training,
computers and support. As part of its strategy, the project has set up gender
desk officers in 16 district offices to ensure that women are more involved in
local decision-making. This is the first time that gender equality has been on
the agenda of local governments in Ghana. Improving the information and
communication flow has helped those working in the offices keep track of
how our gender strategies are working in the region, and how they are
feeding into national policy.

Final report of the Ukraine Election Observer Mission is available at:$file/Ukraine.pdf

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Transparency: Latin America and the Caribbean

Over the last two decades, the Latin America and Caribbean region has
undergone a democratic transformation. Former authoritarian regimes in
some countries have collapsed, and new democratic political systems have
been instituted. In the process of transition, some new leaders have regularly
misused institutional power to obtain unjust advantages. As an integral step
to regional development, both international donors and civil society
organizations have focused on reducing corruption. The Organization of
American States (OAS), together with USAID, Inter-American Democracy
Network, CIDA, World Bank and other private sector and civil society
organizations are now working with the management of public services at the
local level, to modernize public services through e-Government strategies
and to generate municipal income to support public expenditures at the local
level. Here is an opportunity to demonstrate that accelerated application of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help make
governments more transparent and thus, improve governance.

Peacebuilding: Sri Lanka

After more than 20 years of civil war, Sri Lankans are establishing peace.
CIDA’s Peacebuilding Fund is supporting this process through an Educational
and Advisory Support Program implemented by the Ottawa-based
organization, Forum of Federations. The Forum is working directly with the
negotiators, providing confidential advice on governance, constitution-
building and federalism from its worldwide roster of experts which includes
prominent Canadians such as former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, former
Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for Ontario David Cameron, and
Peter Meekison, Alberta's constitutional advisor. The program has held
workshops with negotiators helping them to assess the kinds of technical
information they would require for upcoming negotiations. It is also working
with a Sri Lankan partner, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, to develop a
wide-ranging public information initiative to counter fears that devolution of
power will cause this deeply wounded country to split apart and to increase
public understanding of the complex issue of federalism. The program has
held public information sessions on multilevel governance with key groups,
including public servants, professional associations, civil society organizations
and businesses.

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For more information…

• Governance and Canada Corps (2005)

• Canadian International Development Agency’s policy on Human Rights,

Democratization, and Good Governance (1996)

• United Nations Development Program Governance for sustainable human

development. A UNDP policy document (January 1997),

• UNDP Oslo Governance Centre

• Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Participatory

Development and Good Governance (1995),;

• European Union Governance and Democracy (2003),;

• Governance Resource Centre (GRC Exchange, UK)

• Asian Development Bank Governance: Sound Development Management

(August 1995),

• Asian Development Bank Toolkits for Governance Assessment,

• John Graham, Bruce Amos, Tim Plumptre Principles for Good Governance
in the 21st Century, Policy Brief No. 15, Institute for Governance, August

• Ahmed Mohiddin Regional Overview of the Impact of Failures of

Accountability on Poor People, Occasional Paper, Background Paper for
HDR 2002, Human Development Report Office, United Nations
Development Program, 2002.

• Asian Development Bank Toolkits for Governance Assessment,

• Asian Development Bank Good Governance Practices,

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